Can private ride-hailing services solve the commute crisis in Pakistan? – DAWN.com

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The lack of a functioning and reliable public transport system has long since been a problem in the country. But can multiple ride-hailing services manage this issue for our metropolitan cities?

“There are 45 people struggling for one seat in a public bus in Karachi,” Zeeshan Baig, General Manager at Careem Pakistan said on Saturday during a panel discussion on transport and mobility at the 021Disrupt tech conference that took place in Karachi.

“Imagine the multiple opportunities that exist in this sector in Pakistan,” he continued, adding that “Careem takes pride in the fact that it paved the way for others to join the transit ecosystem.”

The panelists shared how they identified the struggles people face in travelling across the city every day, and introduced safer commute options.

Read: Could Airlift be the solution to our mass transit problems?

Muneeb Mayr, founder and CEO at Bykea, shared that his company is capitalising on the existing network of bikes on the roads, instead of adding more.

“We try creating more jobs per hour so the guy making a dollar per hour can make two dollars per hour. We can ensure profit maximisation for both the rider and the company if we structure ourselves as a marketplace running on a network of motorbikes.”

But what about safety?

“In mass transit, we have one driver responsible for dozens of passengers. We provide thorough training to our drivers so they put forward their best selves,” shared Usman Gul, CEO at Airlift, an app-based, premium van service in Pakistan.

“I believe it is more about the checks and balances you plant in the system and finding technology-driven solutions. Our rewards and incentive system, where we provide our drivers with real-time financial benefits for the right behaviour, plays an instrumental part too.”

Panelists discussing mass transit.

“We have an ecosystem with major air and space challenges that we’re trying to solve and I think the heart of all these urban problems that we are experiencing lies in the lack of a mass transit system. The opportunity here is to build a mass transit system where you’re transporting people in a manner which is efficient for all stakeholders,” he added.

Some on the panel talked about implementing vigorous screening processes before hiring drivers for their mobility services, while others shared the importance of establishing sound relationships with their staff and providing them the training to distinguish between right and wrong.

Co-founder of Roshni Rides, Gia Farooqi, explained, “Human interaction and development is important so our drivers can be the ambassadors of our brand.”

Gia’s enterprise Roshni Rides caters specifically to women and children, who she says are affected most by Pakistan’s mobility issues.

Also read: Everything I learned as a young woman using Careem’s bike-sharing service

The disruptors unanimously agreed that their relationship with the government is not always smooth.

They explained that ride-hailing regulations that the government often sends their way in the form of levied sales tax and predetermined service rates do not help either.

“We have created over 500,000 jobs in last four years in the country so the government does not have to do it anymore,” said Zeeshan. “I feel this public-private partnership can be a win-win situation for all parties.”

“The government is the biggest winner here. They don’t have to build a new, mass transit system because we have ours in place,” added Mostafa Kandil, founder and CEO of Egypt-based transport app Swvl, a premium mass transit system that has recently expanded its services to Pakistan.

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